Deeping Rangers look to bring the smiles back to the club’s fans tonight following a difficult summer.
The club was rocked by the deaths of president Norman Fowler and secretary Haydon Whitham within a matter of days.
That double blow has given the club the added incentive to pull together and star striker Ryan Oliver admits he has never known a team spirit like it.
He said: “I didn’t think it was possible for our team spirit to get any better but there is a real togetherness.”
Several Deeping players turned down the chance to move elsewhere this summer as they look to make up for the heartbreak of losing last season’s UCL Cup Final in extra-time against Huntingdon.
Manager Tuncay Korkmaz has returned from holiday to face a selection headache for the right reasons.
Rangers were in fine form during their unbeaten pre-season campaign, culminating in a 4-0 thumping of local rivals Spalding on Saturday.
Mark Ward took charge for that game in Korkmaz’s absence and, despite having several players missing, they produced an excellent display against the reigning UCL champions. Jamie Graham grabbed a hat-trick and Oliver – last season’s top-scorer – fired home a spectacular effort which suggests Deeping won’t struggle for goals.
If Graham, Oliver and Matt Heron can take their pre-season form into the league season, Rangers will not miss the likes of Alex Beck and Mitch Graham who joined hometown clubs Boston Town and Sleaford respectively.
Stacy Cartwright joined Wisbech during the summer but Deeping looked solid at the back on Saturday with youngster Tom Palmer earning rave reviews.
Former Welsh Under-16 international Fraser Sturgess, who has joined from Netherton, and Dave Burton-Jones are both on holiday so will miss tonight’s league opener against Harborough Town while Spencer Tinkler is short of match fitness.
Deeping will be looking for at least a top six finish and Oliver is determined to get among the goals again.
He said: “I hope to be the top-scorer this season, for the league as well as for the club, and I hope Jamie can carry on playing as well as he did on Saturday.
“He was the best player on the pitch and if he can get 20-25 goals this season and Matt Heron can bang a few in I am sure we won’t miss Mitch and Alex.”
Deeping have also brought in Bobby Lee from Harrowby, Jack Bates (Coates Ath), Danny Bircham (Soham), and Matt Holland (Yaxley).